For the second year in a row, the region title belongs to Jones County.
The Greyhounds rallied in the second half to overtake Dutchtown 21-13 on Friday with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. It’s their seventh win in a row, all victories of which have come in GHSA Region 4-AAAAA.
The region title in hand, the Greyhounds host Wayne County, the fourth place team from Region 1-AAAAA, on Friday at Greyhound Field. If Jones County wins, it would host either Griffin or Jonesboro in the second round.
The Yellow Jackets are 3-7, but one of those wins was a 10-7 triumph on Oct. 23 against Veterans, enough to earn fourth in the region.
Veterans is the last team to have beat the Greyhounds this season 30-6, Sept. 18. Since then, JCHS has ripped off seven wins in a row.
“Region champs and to go undefeated, it’s just awesome,” Jones County quarterback John Alan Richter said. “We just stuck together and played as team.”
Down 13-7, the offense being shutout in the second and third quarters, the Greyhounds finally hit paydirt again early in the final quarter. With Javious Bond, who left the Woodland game with an apparent ankle injury the week before, on the sidelines on Friday for the most part, Jones County was down one of its key playmakers. Not only that, but self-inflicted miscues also dinged the Greyhounds’ chances against the Bulldogs. An intentional grounding penalty near the end of the first half stalled a drive toward a potential field goal try. A muffed punt after holding Dutchtown to a three and out to begin the second half, resulted in a touchdown that would later be followed by a field goal.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Greyhounds trailed 13-7 but were kept in the game by their `bend but don’t break’ defense. On a drive in which two first downs were nullified by holding penalties and another from an illegal block in the back, JCHS found a way to cash in. Rolling out of the pocket, Richter put a deep ball up in the end zone, and Maleek Wooten bested the Dutchtown defensive back for the touchdown and 14-13 Greyhounds lead following Evan West’s extra point with 10:33 to play.
“That was an awesome, awesome feeling,” Richter said. “When I put it up, I knew he’d make a play on it:’
Richter was 16-of-23 for 202 yards, completing passes to eight receivers.
Clinging to a one-point lead, the Greyhounds needed to hold onto control of the game. They did just that, starting with the defensive side of the ball, forcing a punt and handing its offense the ball on its own 14-yard line with 8:15 to play. The Greyhounds went right to the attack, methodically driving downfield to cap the 86-yard drive off on a six-yard run by Andrew Calmer and 21-13 lead with 5:15 to play. Carner didn’t have as many long scoring runs as in recent weeks, but still managed to eclipse the century mark, gaining 122 yards on 20 carries.
Dutchtown needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. Jones County’s defense ensured that it was not a possibility. After a sack by Kaleb Wiggins set up a third and long, the Bulldogs called for a halfback pass. The play, thanks to pressure by the Greyhounds, never developed as Deon Richardson led a group of Greyhounds in for the big tackle for a loss. From there, the Bulldogs punted, and a JCHS first down enabled them to run out the clock for the win.
“They’re coachable, play together as a unit and we don’t have any selfish kids. That pays huge dividends,” Jones County defensive coordinator Robert Braucht said.
The Bulldogs struck first to begin Friday’s game, keeping the ball on the ground for a 24-yard field goal. That ended up being the story of the Jones County defense that bowed its neck, forcing two Dutchtown scoring drives to end on field goals and turning away another scoring chance late in the first half when Jitavius Whipple deflected away a pass in the end zone into the hands of Richardson.
Richardson’s ten tackles led the team, and he was one of six with a tackle for a loss. Wiggins had two tackles for a loss and a sack.
“When you work hard all week like these kids do, they want to see the fruit of their labor,” Braucht said. “It’s big for them to come into a game like this and play solid.”
Down 3-0 early, the Greyhounds answered back. After a pass to Austin Barnes got the ball to the one-yard line, Carner took it in for a 7-3 lead, an advantage that Jones County held until the third quarter.